Swelling ankles can make them look puffy and feel tight and stiff, which can limit your ankle movement and your ability to wear shoes.
Swollen ankles can be caused by a number of different reasons, including injury, pregnancy, congestive heart failure, arthritis, and more.
This article will review home remedies for swollen feet and ankles, and when to see a healthcare provider about your symptoms.
Causes of swollen ankles
There are many causes of swollen ankles, including:
- Foot, ankle or leg injury
- peripheral arterial disease
- chronic venous insufficiency
- congestive heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- side effects of certain medicines
There are some home remedies that may help relieve some of the symptoms associated with swollen feet and ankles.
Wearing compression stockings puts constant pressure on the legs, which can help improve circulation and reduce fluid buildup in the ankles. Compression stockings are especially recommended for ankle swelling caused by chronic venous insufficiency, with a compressive strength of 20 to 30 mmHg for mild swelling and 30 to 40 mmHg for severe swelling.
Edema is the clinical term for swelling caused by excess fluid in body tissues. Edema can occur anywhere on the body, but is very common in the feet and ankles, especially in older adults with poor circulation. Exercise, including walking and ankle pumps, can help improve circulation and reduce swelling.
Patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) should not wear compression stockings due to increased pressure. Stockings can further compress constricted arteries and impair blood supply, cutting off circulation and starving tissues of oxygen.
Magnesium deficiency is associated with increased systemic inflammation. It often causes swelling. Epsom salts contain magnesium, which can be absorbed through the skin. Bathing or soaking your feet in a bucket of water with Epsom salts may help reduce inflammation and swelling in your ankles by increasing magnesium levels.
Diet and Supplements
Reducing your sodium (salt) intake can help balance your system and reduce swelling. If your sodium intake is too high, your body will retain water to maintain the ideal sodium to water ratio. This can lead to water retention, which can lead to bloating and swelling in the feet and ankles.
You can limit your sodium intake by reducing your use of canned foods, especially:
- manufactured food
- deli meat
Certain herbs, including parsley and dandelion, are diuretic and help flush excess water from the body and can be taken as a supplement or as a tea. Beverages such as coffee and tea that contain caffeine also have a diuretic effect.
Elevating your feet uses gravity to help your veins drain blood from your feet back to your heart. Because your feet and ankles sit below your heart when you sit and stand most of the day, fluids can build up in these areas if your circulation is compromised.
It takes a lot of effort for the veins to pump blood back to the heart against gravity, so raising your legs can help reduce the workload of the veins and circulate blood back to the heart to reduce resistance.
When the lymphatic vessels are damaged, excess fluid stays in the tissues after the blood has been pumped to these areas and is difficult to drain from the body. Lymphatic drainage massage uses gentle manual pressure to help transfer lymph fluid from body tissues into the lymphatic vessels, which can help relieve swelling.
Without adequate hydration levels and the proper sodium to water ratio, your body stores water rather than expelling it through sweat and urine, which often results in excess fluid in the feet and ankles. To stay hydrated, aim to drink about half your body weight in ounces of water per day (for a 150-pound person, about 75 ounces per day).
Concentrated, dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration, while clear yellow urine usually means you’re hydrated.
If the medication is causing your feet and ankles to swell, talk with your healthcare provider about lowering the dose or changing the medication completely. Calcium channel blockers used to treat high blood pressure, steroids used to treat inflammation, certain antidepressants, and estrogen and testosterone treatments can cause swelling in the feet and ankles.
In addition to changing medications, your healthcare provider may also prescribe diuretics, commonly called water pills, such as Lasix (furosemide) and Diamox (acetazolamide) Helps flush excess water from the body.
Limiting sitting time and increasing exercise and physical activity will help relieve swelling in your feet and ankles and improve circulation.
When to see a healthcare provider
If your feet and ankles are swollen for more than a month, you should see a healthcare provider for an examination and evaluation to diagnose any underlying cause. If you have an injury to your foot, ankle, or leg with significant pain and swelling, you should schedule a visit with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
In addition to swelling, pain, redness, and warmth in the feet and ankles are often signs of infection and require immediate medical attention.
Ankle swelling can be caused by a number of different causes and can be managed at home with compression stockings, elevation, monitoring sodium and water intake, diuretic supplements, lymphatic drainage massage, Epsom salts, and changing medications. If symptoms persist after trying home remedies for more than a month, you should see a medical professional to determine the underlying cause of the ankle swelling.
In addition to avoiding injury, it’s best to prevent swollen ankles by staying active and exercising regularly to maintain good circulation. If you’ve been sitting or standing for long periods of time, it can be helpful to take regular breaks to walk, which allows the muscles in your legs to contract and improve blood flow.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to reduce ankle swelling?
The time frame for reducing ankle swelling varies depending on the underlying cause. With changes in diet and medication, swelling can subside within a few weeks, or it can take months for injuries and chronic conditions to improve.
What does it mean if my ankle swelling doesn’t go away?
Ankle swelling that doesn’t go away often indicates an underlying condition that affects the heart, blood vessels, musculoskeletal system, or lymphatic system.
What medications can cause ankle swelling?
Medications that can cause swollen ankles include calcium channel blockers to treat high blood pressure, steroids to treat inflammation, antidepressants, and estrogen and testosterone.
When should I be concerned about swollen ankles?
You should be concerned about swollen ankles if your swelling doesn’t go away within a month, if your swelling gets worse over time, if your foot is struggling to bear weight, or if you have any signs of infection.